March 24, 2013
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Southern Miss picked up their first conference victory in walk-off, extra-inning fashion on Sunday as they split a pair of games with Conference USA foe UTEP at the Southern Miss Softball Complex.
In game one, a continuation of Saturday's rained out affair, the Miners (10-15, 1-4 C-USA) scored multiple runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings to pull away for the 10-4 victory.
Southern Miss (11-21, 1-7 C-USA) rebounded in the second game, using timely hitting and gritty defense to grind out a 4-3 victory. The Miners held a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the sixth before freshman Michelle Stringer, a Waveland, Miss., native tied it up with her first homer of the year. Then, with the bases loaded in the ninth, junior Mackenzie Sher hit a fly ball to shallow left field but it was deep enough for the sacrifice fly and run to score.
"We finally got back to our, what I call, `business-like' approach," said co-head coach Jon Malgrad after the game. "At times over the past two weeks, we'd get too high or too low so it was nice to settle back into our process and makes things happen. Even when kids weren't getting hits, they were still going back to the plate ready to make a play and it showed there in the end.
Southern Miss is back on the diamond on Friday when they will play one of their only night games of the season, a 6 p.m. match-up with C-USA foe UAB in Birmingham. It will be the first of a three-game series with two more on Saturday.
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UTEP broke the game open early as Ashley Collazo got a two-out, three-run home run to put the visiting Miners up 3-0 in the top of the second.
Southern Miss answered back in the bottom of the frame, taking advantage of a fielding error that allowed Katie Cleary to reach second to lead off the inning. After an illegal pitch moved her over to third, an infield single from Sarah Evans was enough to plate the run to make it 3-1.
Once the game resumed play, UTEP picked up where they left off, with the bases loaded which allowed pitcher Danielle Pearson to help her own cause, plating a pair of runs on a single into left field.
Southern Miss responded with a pair of runs of their own as another Danielle, Danielle LaPointe, hit her first career home run to make it a 5-4 game. The senior from Wildomar, Calif., brought in Morgan McKeever on the roundtripper to right center who walked in her previous at bat.
The Miners answered back in kind, scoring a pair of runs in the fourth and three more in the sixth, to pull away for the 10-4 victory.
Pearson picked up her fifth win of the year while freshman Kaitlin Wilson suffered the loss.
UTEP opened up the first inning with three doubles, accounting for a pair of runs, before Southern Miss answered back in the second as Sarah Evans' attempted sacrifice was misplayed by the Miners to bring in Caroline Walker from second.
The Miners pushed their lead to 3-1 in the third on a Kayleigh Walts double to the wall, her third extra base hit of the day.
However, it was the freshman Michelle Stringer who provided the initial heroics with one swing of the bat. On the first pitch she saw in the sixth, Stringer got her first homer, a deep shot to right field, bringing in Katie Cleary who singled to lead off the inning.
After a scoreless seventh, the Miners got runners on the corners with two outs in the eighth, but Southern Miss defended the double steal to perfection to erase the go-ahead run and home and maintain the tie.
Southern Miss got to the eighth with runners on the corners, but a grounder to the third baseman went right back to the plate to erase the winning run there and a strikeout with the bases loaded two batters later ended the inning.
In the ninth, the Black and Gold again loaded the bases but didn't let the opportunity slip away the second time around. With one out, Taylor Beck and McKeever both got singles up the middle and after a LaPointe walk, Sher hit a shallow fly by into left field and the throw back to the plate sailed wide, allowing Beck to slide in safely.
Senior Beth Dietrich picked up her first win of the season, throwing the complete nine innings for Southern Miss while surrendering nine hits and three runs.
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